Nicholas Lezard on the ghost stories of EF Benson (Guardian)

I wonder what it is that made the era so propitious for the production of this kind of story. (HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle were at it, too, among countless others.) One could propose a kind of morphic resonance, whereby Freud’s research into dreams a decade earlier had filtered through into an otherwise placid world; or you could suggest that it was the bad conscience of empire at work, undermining the pinnacles of its achievements as they were experienced at home: the church, the academy, the country house. [MR] James and Benson themselves remained, as they used to say coyly in the obituaries, unmarried, and maybe the sense of existing to some extent at a marginal level of society helped them conjure up tales of visitors from unseen worlds. I see Benson as trying to work something out from the unconscious: it’s not unusual for his stories to break the membrane between the waking and dreaming world, as in “Caterpillars”, or the recurring nightmare in “The Room in the Tower”.

— from Ghost Stories by EF Benson review by Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian, 18th October 2016

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